From a city-specific bird race to the Asian waterbird census: As annual bird migrations accelerate, it is time for the various attempts by Chennai and Tamil Nadu to document these winged journeys begin
The start of the year for us is the middle of the migration season for a number of our winged guests and a time of significant activity for the Chennai birding community. That’s when Chennai bird watchers – like others across the country – take stock of the populations of domestic and migratory birds around the city.
In an ordinary year, January would have seen three annual events – the Chennai Bird Race, the Asian Waterbird Census, and the Tamil Nadu government’s own synchronized bird census – forcing bird watchers to roam the grounds. wetlands, woodlands and other city hot spots. in a patient and long-term attempt to document our avian population. Last year the much-anticipated Chennai Bird Race marquee had to be put on hold, while the other two events saw low-key and focused participation from a few long-time bird watchers.
This year, however, the Madras Naturalists Society (MNS) dares to hope for a little more despite an impending wave.
According to G Vijay Kumar, Honorary Secretary of MNS, the organization behind the Madras Bird Race: “We hope to organize the HSBC Chennai Bird Race this year. While the event usually takes place in January for better sightings, there is no rule as such. It is in the migration period between December and February that you have the choice when you go out in the field. You don’t have to limit yourself to the birds of the woods.
There are numbers to support Kumar’s statement. For example, during the last public bird race in Chennai in 2020, around 30 participating teams spotted a total of 171 species of birds in the city. At least four teams had spotted more than 100 species each, says Kumar, adding, “The bird of the day was the gray wagtail seen at Semmenchery. Other notable sightings were the Yellow Wagtail, Asiatic Magpie Starling, and Pallas Grasshopper Warbler at Pallikaranai Marsh, and the Southern Gray Shrike at Perumbakkam Tank.
And these are just a few of the wetland birds; Chennai also has a significant number of woodland birds which have populated urban treetops throughout the year.
While Chennai Bird Race – one of many separate bird races sponsored by HSBC across the country – is organized entirely by the Chennai Brotherhood, the company is also part of a larger and focused effort to follow populations. birds from larger areas. The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC), for example, first took place in 1987 and today covers around 26 countries along the East Asian Flyway and d Australasia, as well as much of the Central Asian Flyway. This is a massive effort of citizen science, which depends on both amateurs and experts who implement huge efforts of their own accord. In our part of the map in 2021, the state coordinator for AWC was KV Sudhakar, a key member of MNS.
To the best
According to Sudhakar, “AWC is part of a concentrated effort of the Asian Wetlands Bureau and has been taking place since the 1980s in Tamil Nadu. MNS member Dr V Shantaram had pioneered waterfowl censuses in Tamil Nadu, along with C Teronno from Puducherry. Tamil Nadu has always been at the forefront of such initiatives, as the state has one of the highest wetland coverages in the country, after Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Like last year, this year’s efforts on the ground are also being led by several researchers based in Salem, Tiruchi and other parts of the state, Sudhakar said. While Tamil Nadu infantrymen submitted a total of 150 species for review in 2021, the final figures “are still being compiled by the AWC,” he said.
He adds: “Previously the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) was the national coordinator, but now bird watchers can just log their sightings on eBird, which makes it easier. We asked the participants of the Pongal Bird Count to contribute as well; these initiatives require coordination.
As Sudhakar points out, he quickly lists the native waterfowl of his native land: “Pelicans, Painted Storks, Herons, Egrets. Migrants include ducks, sandpipers and plovers. We never used to see flamingos in Chennai; they were generally only spotted at Pulicat. It is only in the last few years that they are starting to be seen here: changes like these are important to note. “
Is the effort worth it? Bird watchers are convinced that they do: their sightings not only help track the changing populations and migratory patterns of species across the region, but are also an excuse to feel connected to the natural world again.